Flights That Heal Hearts … and Bodies

In the summer of 2016 my family and I were stationed at Mbingo Baptist Hospital in Cameroon where I was serving with World Medical Mission as an obstetrician-gynecologist. We were hoping to meet up with Mark Spangler, a helicopter pilot with SIL Aviation in Cameroon, as we are from the same town in Arizona.

Just as we were making plans to arrange a meeting, Mark sent me a message saying that he was transporting a very sick new mother who had had a cesarean section at an outlying hospital. She was not doing well, and the doctors at the other hospital had requested transport for her to Mbingo Baptist Hospital for consultation and continued care. Mark thought that he could arrive at Mbingo with the patient around noon that day.

The little red helicopter landed on the Mbingo helipad just before noon, and the patient was placed immediately in the surgical ward. She was very sick. Her abdomen was firm and extremely tender, and her laboratory tests suggested that she had a severe infection. She was prepared for surgery that evening. The surgical team operated on her for hours, removing infection and repairing her injuries.

With the surgical care and antibiotics she made an amazing recovery. She listened daily to the chaplains share the gospel on the ward and met with them. Ten days after surgery I took her picture and sent it to Mark, thanking him for bringing her to us. Had he not flown her to Mbingo that day, she would not likely have survived the night. She was even able to continue breastfeeding her baby as she recovered from her surgery. With a huge smile on her face, she thanked us for saving her life.

The entire team, from the helicopter transport to the surgical team who cared for her, reminded me of Psalm 147:5. “He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds.”

—Dr. Allan Sawyer


 The “little red helicopter” that has been serving God in Northwest Cameroon for eight years will be taken out of service in November for a mandated overhaul.The good news is that a newer, bigger, more powerful helicopter is on its way to Cameroon to take up the task. The R66—equipped with an additional passenger seat, able to transport a heavier payload, and powered by more accessible jet fuel—will expand translation services significantly. Thank you for your prayers and gifts that have brought us this far in providing an aviation solution for Cameroon!

But this helicopter is only one of many transportation solutions we hope to offer in Africa.  This plan focuses less on individual aircraft and more on researching and selecting from a variety of options so that we can provide the most locally appropriate, sustainable, and timely aviation solutions across this broad and volatile region. Safe, affordable aviation transportation is a crucial service for Bible translation efforts—and for sharing God’s love with life-saving medical flights. To learn more and to add your support to ours, go to

Dr. Sawyer and his family have been serving in developing countries since 2003. After retiring from private practice earlier this year, Dr. Sawyer is now devoting himself to serving and teaching at mission hospitals around the world.